What Has Been the Role of Petroleum in Human Progress? (Part IV)
Ed. note: Geologist and petroleum engineer Julián Salazar Velásquez, with nearly a half-century in the Mexican and Venezuelan oil industries, is a leading educator and proponent of free market energy. In addition to numerous articles, his book Gerencia Integrada de Campos de Hidrocarburos (2020) is a primer on the oil industry value chain. His four-part summary (see Part I, Part II, and Part III) ends today.
“I have two options: to remain silent in the last years of my life and witness the destruction of the world economy, as just happened in Venezuela. Or alert many to the threat to blessed living to avoid a repeat of destruction. In clear conscience, I opt for the second!”
The role that fossil fuels have played in the progress of humanity in four revolutions is undeniable:
- Mechanization with steam engines powered by coal;
- Massification of electricity, generated first by coal and later by falling water, oil, and natural gas
- Digitization and artificial intelligence
The mineral energy story can incorporate another of the highly important indicators in the quality of life, such as agricultural and livestock development and food production. (Figures 12 and 13)
Agricultural development has the same development as the other indicators seen previously, where global progress is reflected in the leading role of fossil fuels from coal and oil at the beginning and subsequent expansion of the Industrial Revolution.
In this case, the use of land for cultivation and grazing, which directly affects the food supply, has also grown exponentially since 1850, with values below one billion hectares prior to that date growing to five billion today. Consider that fossil fuels move the agricultural machinery represented by tractors, irrigation equipment, harvesters and food transport–and consider the petrochemical products derived from oil and gas such as fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides used in agriculture that have made possible agricultural development supplying food to a growing world population, now at eight billion.
Thanks to this, the fateful predictions of famine occurring in the world, predictionsin 1972 and 1976 by the Club of Rome and Stanford University respectively, were not fulfilled. Quite the opposite, the public health problem is now the prevalence of obesity caused by overeating and other issues.
Many readers might ask: Do those fuels such as coal, oil and gas not produce environmental pollution or side effects in everyday life?
Of course, yes! All human and industrial activity produces effects on the environment, and environmental-protection laws and regulations govern solid, liquid and gaseous /waste in all countries. But this is not why campaigns are proposing to ban everything that impacts the environment, even when the benefits of that which is being banned are huge compared to the tradeoffs.
It is inadmissible to prohibit the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas (and the use of their fuels and products) because of environmental pollution, when it can be minimized through the use of technologies and by compliance with the procedures established by law. Promoting and imposing “anti-oil and gas” campaigns based on hypothetical negative effects of CO2 emissions is the problem, the misdirection, that needs to be redirected.
As I mentioned in my most recent article on this topic, published on my networks and in Petroleum Magazine: Energy Transition or Transgression?:
…when analyzing the disclosure of the causes and actions to be taken to counteract the climate phenomenon, it is evident that the coverage in the vast majority of the media, social and technical networks, is inclined towards the first line of thought, that is to say, towards the origin generated by the emission of CO2 and CH4 gases and actions aimed at minimizing or eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the medium term and promoting the “energy transition”. Taking the foregoing into consideration, I responsibly affirm that “if we start from a diagnosis without proven scientific basis, the actions dictated by international politics, such as the reduction or prohibition of the use of fuels derived from hydrocarbons, are incorrect and without any effect in the climatic phenomenon; therefore, its consequences will rather have a very strong negative impact on the global economy.
At this stage of my life, fulfilling my mission of disseminating knowledge, experiences, and convictions, it is my inescapable duty, as a professional in the upstream oil industry, to denounce the “demonization” campaign against fossil fuels despite their incalculable contribution to human welfare. Mineral energies, the fossil fuels, the carbon-based energies—abundant, affordable, storable, and reliable—are essential to world progress.
I have been an eyewitness, not because I read or saw it on television or was told about it, but because I have experienced the destruction of Venezuela and its oil industry by promoting and implementing unviable political and economic models. What has happened in my country is akin to what is now being promoted at a global level. Abandoning freedom and devastating a utilitarian industry on false premises is like driving a car with both the accelerator and brake in full simultaneous use.
I have two options: to remain silent in the last years of my life and witness destruction of the world economy just as has happened in Venezuela. Or alert many to the threat to blessed living to avoid a repeat of destruction. In clear conscience, I opt for the second!
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Betancourt, Eduardo (2022) Conferencia: Traspasando las fronteras: Como hacer oír la voz del Sector de Energía en Venezuela y el mundo.https://meet.goto.com/946146245
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Mata, Tomas (2021). Conferencia: La transición energética. Plataforma para la nueva gran expansión de Venezuela. Conferencia en VAPA.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me2HbhmT5Uc&t=3383s
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Vera Díaz, Julio Cesar (2018). Yacimientos de roca generadora una oportunidad de desarrollo sostenible para todos los colombianos. I Cumbre del petróleo y gas. Asociación colombiana de Ingenieros de Petróleo (ACIPET)
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